Before Robert Bowers killed 11 in synagogue, on Gab he offered to help a white supremacist hate group dox a journalist

Torba, who likes to portray himself as a free speech warrior under attack by big tech, liberals and the media, describes Gab as a censorship-free version of Twitter. But as Gab’s CEO, he has rooted for prominent racists, vilified minorities, fetishized “trad life” in which women stay at home with the kids, and fantasized about a second American civil war in which the right outguns the left. And despite Torba’s supposed commitment to free speech, Gab often blocks its critics on Twitter and rails against journalists.

White supremacists and members of the alt-right like Gab because Torba speaks their language: People who learn to embrace far-right politics have been “red-pilled,” people who know what’s going on are “based.” Even Gab’s logo is a nod to white supremacists: The green frog is clearly reminiscent of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that became popular in racist memes.

Torba, who declined to be interviewed, wasn’t always sending those sorts of signals. Four years ago, he was an aspiring entrepreneur who looked up to tech giants like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. He moved from Pennsylvania to California when his digital advertising startup was picked for an influential Silicon Valley accelerator called Y Combinator in 2014. He was the kind of millennial startup bro who blogged about the importance of turning off your phone and enjoying the moment, yoga, meditation and diet detoxes. He seemed basic but earnest. He wrote about being bullied as an overweight kid and about losing “an older brother figure” to suicide. He shared his poetry about love and travel. He blogged for HuffPost.

But as a conservative and a Christian, Torba didn’t feel like he fit in in the Silicon Valley. In mid-2016, his startup fizzled out, Bloomberg reported last year. Around the same time, Torba “came out” as a Donald Trump supporter on Facebook. He posted a link on to a blog he wrote in support of the then-Republican presidential candidate. Some of the people who were in Y Combinator with him were shocked. “Whoa. You’re voting for Trump?!” commented one woman, who requested not to be named out of fear of being doxxed. “Omgggggg dude wtf.”

He launched Gab in August 2016. The same month, he professed his fandom for Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist who ran and lost against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in Republican primaries in 2016 and ran again this year. “This dude is so much cooler than sell out shill Paul Ryan,” Torba wrote of Nehlen. “He’s tatted up, rides a motorcycle, and challenged Paul Ryan to an arm-wrestling match because he refuses to debate and is a soft-boy loser. I hope he wins.”

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